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Posted: 11/25/2013 10:15:46 PM EDT
I notice a lot of people wanting to get into Amateur Radio for Emergency communications or for SHTF scenarios.
Some may see that when all else fails the hams get through a may be left to think
they can just get a radio and start talking, well nothing could be further from the truth.

What many fail to realize is that Hams had a number of bands and that those bands have various characteristics
that make some suitable to use in the Day, and others at night, and some mostly for local communications.

What makes Ham radio work is its flexibility, and the ability of hams to adapt and change as the conditions of the bands change.
So to have reliable communications that means you need not only the radios but you need the Skill to use it (the major part).

The issue I see is that many are picking not only the wrong radios (many only buying VHF/UHF HTs)
but that are also not wanting to invest in learning about Radio.  In a true emergency the repeaters may be down
or so congested that they are unusable and those HTs (walkie talkies) will have a very limited range.
Even higher power mobile and base FM VHF stations will have limited range due to propagation (how the signal travels).

To truly be effective you must be able to get on a number of bands but more importantly have the understanding and skills
to operate on the HF bands.  I believe every ham should be able to send and receive CW (Morse code) you don't have to
be a high speed CW operator (though it is better) but you should at least need to be able to send and receive a message.

I would encourage anyone who is wanting to get into Ham Radio strictly for emergency communications
to start studying and learn about how radio really works before you even buy your first radio.
Then realize that to have reliable communications you are going to need a lot more than just a simple walkie talkie.


Link Posted: 11/25/2013 11:07:58 PM EDT
[#1]
Great point.

I would like to add that a lot of people wrongly think that ham radio has to be expensive. A new ham can get into HF (long range) radio with a used radio and a wire hanging out of a tree for much less than some people think.
Link Posted: 11/25/2013 11:16:25 PM EDT
[#2]
Quoted:


To truly be effective you must be able to get on a number of bands but more importantly have the understanding and skills
to operate on the HF bands.
View Quote



Not necessarily. I can cover my entire subdivision with simplex UHF from the antennas on my roof and vehicle, and about 2-3 miles out from there.

Enough to organize local security for the neighborhood should SHTF occur and repeaters, cellular, POTS etc etc go down for the duration.
A RICK repeater or CBR can be put together very inexpensively to boost signal within that radius if you want to go duplex.

HF is very cool, especially NVIS, but it all depends on what your goal is.  For local security ops, VHF/UHF works assuming you can have one or more good base stations with antennas high and clear.



Link Posted: 11/26/2013 12:40:24 AM EDT
[#3]
Well spoken Mr Harry,

I see a very similar pattern here also. While tactical (short range) communication is critical, further distance may very well be also.

One of the local guys 'thinks' a dual band HT with a J-Pole at 20 ft will talk simplex 100+ miles. That may be possible from high locations in AZ to the desert floor but not around MO. New guys give his words some thought, ARFCOM is a great resource for learning, then practice and then the Skill part.  
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 1:31:39 AM EDT
[#4]
I don't disagree with any particular point in the OP. But the most important issue is SKILL, which can only be achieved through practice.

During several incidents*, I found ALL bands to be virtually useless due to congestion-- EXCEPT for those repeaters and HF frequencies that were being moderated. A good control operator is worth his weight in gold! I got on the local RACES repeater (I was a member back then) and was proud of the orderly conduct of the net. Non-member visitors were allowed to check in, say their piece and then leave.

eta Regarding Morse Code: It is STILL a desirable mode! I was ragchewing on 40 meters with my brother on who lived about 300 miles away. It was late afternoon, and the band just shut down suddenly: in about 30 seconds his signal went from 4-5 to barely audible. We switched to CW for the time it took to say goodbye. CW still gets through!



*The Rodney King riots and a number of Southern California earthquakes.
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 2:35:23 AM EDT
[#5]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
I don't disagree with any particular point in the OP. But the most important issue is SKILL, which can only be achieved through practice.

During several incidents*, I found ALL bands to be virtually useless due to congestion-- EXCEPT for those repeaters and HF frequencies that were being moderated. A good control operator is worth his weight in gold! I got on the local RACES repeater (I was a member back then) and was proud of the orderly conduct of the net. Non-member visitors were allowed to check in, say their piece and then leave.

eta Regarding Morse Code: It is STILL a desirable mode! I was ragchewing on 40 meters with my brother on who lived about 300 miles away. It was late afternoon, and the band just shut down suddenly: in about 30 seconds his signal went from 4-5 to barely audible. We switched to CW for the time it took to say goodbye. CW still gets through!

*The Rodney King riots and a number of Southern California earthquakes.
View Quote

And this is one reason I was originally thinking about buying a quad band radio.  If I'm trying to get a hold of family in a situation where the grid is down I want bands/frequencies that aren't in common use.  And everyone kept telling me "You don't want 6m or 10m FM, no one's on those freqs."  I didn't get into ham radio to rag chew*, but I'm willing to do so in order to learn how to operate my gear well.

*and by "rag chew" I mean by any means, digital, RTTY, CW, etc.
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 3:55:35 AM EDT
[#6]
I forget where I read the article, but it was written by a long-time HAM Extra and lawyer who made a pretty-damn-convincing argument that HAM radios WILL NOT - and NEVER HAVE BEEN LEGAL to use (by non-licensed users) during an emergency of any kind. Ever.

Think about it. When was federal law EVER suspended? (Nope. Not during Katrina or Sandy. Nor, post horrific, tornadic storms in the mid-west. Never.)

Plus, inexperienced users can - and do - stomp on (or, otherwise interfere with) critical comm's used by emergency/government personnel.

They WILL look for you - and there's gear out there today, used by authorities (AND HAMs obsessed with catching people transmitting illegally - and there are a lot of them!), that'll lock onto your location so fast, it's almost beyond comprehension.

And, in a major SHTF situation, TPTB can call indirect fire onto your location long before your can egress the area, too. I'm not saying they'd do that as SOP, in all situations. But, if they think you're opfor - you can count on it!

I absolutely guarantee it.

I'd say that's something to consider when planning for "our" SHTF fantasy scenarios. That's my $.02 anyway.

Of course, as always, YMMV.

***I just wish I could remember where I'd read it cuz there was even more to it than what I've "reported". It sure changed my thinking (although, I've yet to come up with a solution within my limited capabilities)! And once Zero hits the off-switch . . . fuck! One of the things heretofore considered critical (reliable comm's) may just be your undoing (provided you're using it illegally or, to facilitate an "organized resistance to tyranny").
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 4:54:07 AM EDT
[#7]
All good points.


FWIW: I believe the main reason for folks wanting to "buy before they try" is to have something to work to or work for.

literally "buying in" to the hobby...while it may not be the best course of action...it does give the buyer a small sense of accomplishment and achievement (whether they realize it or not) (like a 12 step program..."ok I have the radio, now I REALLY need to study") (list of list) (etc) .

let's face it, we all like Microwave pop-corn, and usually stand in front of the glass waiting on the 2:12 min to pass so we can enjoy....it's just where we find ourselves in society....



SCW

ETA: I'm not coming down against testing or proving yourself in operational skills...just not ready to diss someone who wants to buy a $35 HT as an incentive to get their ticket...
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 5:29:03 AM EDT
[#8]
I bought my UV-B5 about 3 months before I tested.  I was advised to listen so I would be familiar with etiquette and the flow of traffic.

I'll let you know how that works out after my callsign posts to the ULS (hopefully today or tomorrow).

ETA

Both the Tech and the General question pool make a big deal out of the fact that you may use ANY frequency available in an emergency if no other avenue of communication is available.
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 5:36:41 AM EDT
[#9]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
I bought my UV-B5 about 3 months before I tested.  I was advised to listen so I would be familiar with etiquette and the flow of traffic.

I'll let you know how that works out after my callsign posts to the ULS (hopefully today or tomorrow).

ETA

Both the Tech and the General question pool make a big deal out of the fact that you may use ANY frequency available in an emergency if no other avenue of communication is available.
View Quote


Define "emergency"
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 6:09:38 AM EDT
[#10]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:


Define "emergency"
View Quote View All Quotes
View All Quotes
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Quoted:
I bought my UV-B5 about 3 months before I tested.  I was advised to listen so I would be familiar with etiquette and the flow of traffic.

I'll let you know how that works out after my callsign posts to the ULS (hopefully today or tomorrow).

ETA

Both the Tech and the General question pool make a big deal out of the fact that you may use ANY frequency available in an emergency if no other avenue of communication is available.


Define "emergency"

For the test "emergency" was defined roughly as saving life or limb, or preventing property damage.
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 7:13:58 AM EDT
[#11]
My main concern is that many will be lulled into a false sense of security thinking that HT is all they need.

But what happens if a storm rolls through and knocks out the phones and repeaters?
(Most likely the roads will also be congested or even unusable due to downed trees etc.)

Now what if you have severely injured people who need to be medevaced immediately.

Is that HT going to have the range to reach-out to another Amateur Radio Operator
outside of the affected area who can make the contact to get help to you?

Link Posted: 11/26/2013 7:24:56 AM EDT
[#12]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
My main concern is that many will be lulled into a false sense of security thinking that HT is all they need.

But what happens if a storm rolls through and knocks out the phones and repeaters?
(Most likely the roads will also be congested or even unusable due to downed trees etc.)

Now what if you have severely injured people who need to be medevaced immediately.

Is that HT going to have the range to reach-out to another Amateur Radio Operator
outside of the affected area who can make the contact to get help to you?

View Quote


You have reiterated my earlier post. Training (and familiarity with your environment, to include your equipment and the network of repeaters, clubs, etc. in your area) are all-important in an emergency or disaster.

e·mer·gen·cy  (-mûrjn-s)
n. pl. e·mer·gen·cies
1. A serious situation or occurrence that happens unexpectedly and demands immediate action.
2. A condition of urgent need for action or assistance: a state of emergency.
(http://www.thefreedictionary.com/emergency)

dis·as·ter
di'zast?r/Submit
noun
1.
a sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, that causes great damage or loss of life.
"159 people died in the disaster"

in RACES we used the following definition for "disaster:" an emergency so large in extent that the government's ability to respond is overwhelmed. Makes a good definition.
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 8:53:34 AM EDT
[#13]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:...Both the Tech and the General question pool make a big deal out of the fact that you may use ANY frequency available in an emergency if no other avenue of communication is available.
View Quote



True, but if someone starts yakking it up on a repeater about their "out of microwave popcorn" emergency while others are using it for net ops to clear rubble off a bunch of survivors or the like, dark hilarity may ensue.
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 9:04:22 AM EDT
[#14]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:

True, but if someone starts yakking it up on a repeater about their "out of microwave popcorn" emergency while others are using it for net ops to clear rubble off a bunch of survivors or the like, dark hilarity may ensue.
View Quote View All Quotes
View All Quotes
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Quoted:...Both the Tech and the General question pool make a big deal out of the fact that you may use ANY frequency available in an emergency if no other avenue of communication is available.

True, but if someone starts yakking it up on a repeater about their "out of microwave popcorn" emergency while others are using it for net ops to clear rubble off a bunch of survivors or the like, dark hilarity may ensue.

I would certainly hope so.
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 9:48:04 AM EDT
[#15]
While this is a free book on antennas, the first section deals with propagation, frequency, time of day, why, all that.

Right click and save.

http://www.hamuniverse.com/n4jaantennabook.pdf

Section V, V. THE IONOSPHERE AND MODES OF HF PROPAGATION  1-16.
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 9:56:39 AM EDT
[#16]
Knowing what band to use at a specific time of the day to reach out a specific distance takes years of studying both propagation and solar cycles. I think it is admirable that the SHTF crew wants to have a ham radio as a part of their preps but like a firearm not knowing how to use it can come with disastrous consequences.

Ever had a good RF burn from even 100w?  Yea they fu¢k!ng suck.
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 10:13:22 AM EDT
[#17]


Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:





Ever had a good RF burn from even 100w?  Yea they fu¢k!ng suck.
View Quote



Yummy! Inside out burn with a tiny hole. Kinda a scorpion sting feeling to it.





I remember adjusting the ALC internal pot with a metal jewelers screwdrive on my Kenwood T599 as a new ham.


Heck, I even checked to see that there was not voltage present with my meter.


Which there wasn't, on RX. Yeah there was, on TX. Over 600Volts, as I later measured, on a good whistle


into the microphone on SSB. I did have my other hand in my back pocket however so I was okay, or the shock of


my shoulder blades hitting the wall 4 feet behind me restored the heartbeat. Either way, I did not do that again.
 
 
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 10:25:48 AM EDT
[#18]


Quoted:


I would encourage anyone who is wanting to get into Ham Radio strictly for emergency communications


to start studying and learn about how radio really works before you even buy your first radio.


Then realize that to have reliable communications you are going to need a lot more than just a simple walkie talkie.
View Quote



Yes, practice, or at least actual radio use/experience plus some in depth training/theory with antennas will help


immensely.


(I will cheat and copy/paste this from our local ham club mail list.)





What antenna for HF local communications?


The NVIS antenna is your answer.





Near


Vertical


Incident


Skywave





Yes, it is true, what goes up must come down. Want to know some neat?


You can help aim where it comes down!





Introduction


A properly designed Near Vertical Incident Skywave


(NVIS) antenna will have a directivity pattern that will maximize


transmission and reception at high angles while


rejecting low angle, long range noise.


Further, this antenna must be tunable over at least


one octave of frequency to track the local Critical Frequency (CF).





Redneck version of the above:


Yo! Muh antenna shoots straight up and ricochets back down, works real


good for 200 miles to talk to my buddies when Ahm at deer camp!
Go here for the rest of the document re nvis:


https://www.txarmymars.org/downloads/NVIS-Antenna-Theory-and-Design.pdf





Easier to read and understand document on nvis:


http://www.starc.org/technotes/75-40%20meter-nvis.html




 
 
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 10:36:20 AM EDT
[#19]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:

Yummy! Inside out burn with a tiny hole. Kinda a scorpion sting feeling to it.

I remember adjusting the ALC internal pot with a metal jewelers screwdrive on my Kenwood T599 as a new ham.
Heck, I even checked to see that there was not voltage present with my meter.
Which there wasn't, on RX. Yeah there was, on TX. Over 600Volts, as I later measured, on a good whistle
into the microphone on SSB. I did have my other hand in my back pocket however so I was okay, or the shock of
my shoulder blades hitting the wall 4 feet behind me restored the heartbeat. Either way, I did not do that again.



   
View Quote View All Quotes
View All Quotes
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Quoted:

Ever had a good RF burn from even 100w?  Yea they fu¢k!ng suck.

Yummy! Inside out burn with a tiny hole. Kinda a scorpion sting feeling to it.

I remember adjusting the ALC internal pot with a metal jewelers screwdrive on my Kenwood T599 as a new ham.
Heck, I even checked to see that there was not voltage present with my meter.
Which there wasn't, on RX. Yeah there was, on TX. Over 600Volts, as I later measured, on a good whistle
into the microphone on SSB. I did have my other hand in my back pocket however so I was okay, or the shock of
my shoulder blades hitting the wall 4 feet behind me restored the heartbeat. Either way, I did not do that again.



   

I walked into a poorly marked wire vertical at field day. People learned to keep their antennas illuminated after that.
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 10:49:45 AM EDT
[#20]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Knowing what band to use at a specific time of the day to reach out a specific distance takes years of studying both propagation and solar cycles. I think it is admirable that the SHTF crew wants to have a ham radio as a part of their preps but like a firearm not knowing how to use it can come with disastrous consequences.

Ever had a good RF burn from even 100w?  Yea they fu¢k!ng suck.
View Quote



And they seem to take  long time to heal
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 11:05:19 AM EDT
[#21]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
...And they seem to take  long time to heal
View Quote



Meh, you're just sayin' that 'cuz it's cooked meat is all.  
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 11:19:50 AM EDT
[#22]
From what I have seen most prepper folks getting into the game probably have very little radio experience or understanding of what they will be capable of legally and technically, initially.  They probably have not given much thought to who they want to talk to and how far away that is.  Without knowing that, its hard to pick which direction to start.  Education is key.

My background is a bit different in that I have been working with radios for a long time. I don't mean just picking them up and talking on them.  I have been working under .mil, and public safety licenses designing, maintaining, and programming a few radio systems.  I just never needed a HAM license and CW was a nonstarter for me.  Things have changed and I am no longer active with those systems and the people I need/want to talk to are different.  

My primary contact group (family, friends, other preppers) are all inside of 10 miles, but line of sight options like MURS and GMRS are not a perfect solution for all of them due to the hills and mountains. VHF/UHF works great here if you have a repeater.   Some of the group I need to talk with won't bother with trying to get a HAM license.  So for some MURS or GMRS will be their limit.    My secondary contact group is 300 miles. Some of them are HAMS already.  Which is why I want to get my General.  

HT's are not perfect but I think most preppers start with them as they want to be able to communicate on the go.  Mobile radios in a car are great but if you have to ditch the car, having something man portable is a great option.  Also when things go bad here I am usually out helping and not going to be sitting in a shack or tied to a rig.  I would rather have a portable in my pocket.  For emergency comms in my situation I don't see a need to talk to China.  But I know learning how is important so that you can get the most out of your gear.  

I am still planning out my local comms situation as it was one of the last big holes in my preps.  I have several local HAMS/radio techs I am working with.  We have some great ideas and spare gear that we can use.  We also have access to either existing repeaters or space on a few local mountain top towers.  I already have my GMRS license and taking the tests Tuesday for HAM.  Once I am legal we are going to start testing to see what are the best options for each of our group and go from there.  

That said, I think the biggest problem with the preppers is education.  This forum and a couple others have been a godsend for me in learning what parts I was missing from my knowledge base.  When I would search online, I found more links to this forum than others as it seems to be more active here.  That is a very cool thing.  

For some getting them in the door to take Tech and helping them see where the holes in their plans are needed.  If buying a cheap HT is what starts the ball rolling...

Link Posted: 11/26/2013 11:20:14 AM EDT
[#23]
I agree completely.  I started out getting my Tech license on a challenge from a friend.  Then bought an HT and rapidly realized the limitations and false security of a well placed local linked-repeater towers.  Once well beyond visual range of the towers the HT is about as good as a long string and two cans.  I have since picked up a couple more powerful mobile radios and still understand their limitations.  I then studied and upgraded to General and joined the local ARES/RACES group.  These guys are very helpful and frequently come up with some real neat educational training opportunities.  Now just scratching the surface of HF and digital modes I realize how important CW is for making contact.  I'm adjusting my plan to study for an Extra class license this winter in favor for learning CW first.

My current goal is to "hear the code" and be able send and receive CW messages at a basic level.

For me, I needed to get my feet wet by using the equipment to get a better understanding of how it all works.  Now I let my limited experience guide the direction of my time toward Ham related pursuits.
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 11:22:01 AM EDT
[#24]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:



Meh, you're just sayin' that 'cuz it's cooked meat is all.  
View Quote View All Quotes
View All Quotes
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Quoted:
...And they seem to take  long time to heal



Meh, you're just sayin' that 'cuz it's cooked meat is all.  



It was cold outside before it felt 100%
Link Posted: 11/26/2013 2:37:51 PM EDT
[#25]


Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
For some getting them in the door to take Tech and helping them see where the holes in their plans are needed.  If buying a cheap HT is what starts the ball rolling...





View Quote
HTX 202 is what I started with. Then improved my system as I could afford or learned how. First an antenna adapter to go to a


external antenna and swr/power meter. Purchased a 5/8wave magmount, speaker mic, and build a 4 element quad for the house.


Then got an 35W amplifier kit, built that (first RF burn experience) and I was then fully hooked with the ham radio hobby.




 
 
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